What Damages can you Sue for in an Alabama Wrongful Death Claim?

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To determine what types of damages you can sue for in a wrongful death claim, let’s first define “wrongful death”. Wrongful death is a death that occurs as a result of someone’s negligence. See Section 6-5-410 of the Alabama Code.

Whether it is a car accident, a defective product or drug, a texting driver, or a negligent doctor who over treats or misdiagnoses, an Alabama wrongful death lawyer can help the estate of the deceased file a lawsuit against the wrongdoer.

The personal injury lawsuit must be filed by an estate and not an individual family member. A lawyer can help you form an estate for the purpose of the wrongful death filing.

Who is Liable in Wrongful Death?

The Alabama wrongful death lawyer could file against a person, a group of people, or a corporation – any entity that was negligent and whose reckless behavior led to the death.

This is a civil action, meaning it is filed in civil court, as opposed to a criminal action. That means the only remedy to be sought is a financial one to compensate you for medical expenses, funeral bills, your loss of support, and pain and suffering.

As part of a wrongful death claim, punitive damages are sought. Punitive damages, which can be substantial, are intended to send a clear message to discourage the dangerous behavior from being repeated in the future.

Alabama’s Wrongful Death Claims

Alabama is unique among states in that the jury cannot decide what a life is worth. 

The jury cannot listen to what that family will need to live without the breadwinner’s contribution. And the jury cannot hear about pain and suffering of the deceased, the medical expenses, funeral bills, and loss of support.

The only exception would be if the victim died after initially surviving his injuries. The jury could then hear about what pain and suffering he endured before passing as part of the wrongful death case.

With the above restrictions, it would seem to leave few options for the deceased’s survivors.

There is one avenue for relief.

Instead of seeking compensation over medical bills, loss of future earning pain and suffering, in Alabama, you can sue over the recklessness of the wrongdoer and seek punishment in the form of punitive damages.  

The jury is told to focus on the wrongdoer’s actions and to punish him/her for the amount of damage he/she caused.

The Alabama legislature decided that wrongful death actions should be based upon the degree of culpability. This will result in greater care to avoid the loss of life, the legislature decided.

The Alabama Supreme Court interpreted that to mean damages are recoverable through punitive actions. The amount should be directly related to the amount of wrongdoing on the part of the defendant. 

As part of the jury’s calculations, they can also take into account the assets of the defendant.

Alabama Wrongful Death Lawyer

The Alabama wrongful death lawyer must file the wrongful death claim in the county where the deceased might have brought a personal injury claim, had he lived, and it must be brought within two years from the time of death.

It is not necessary that criminal charges be filed against the same wrongdoer to bring a civil wrongful death claim. The punishment is merely financial damages and there will be no imprisonment or other penalties that a criminal claim could bring.

Alabama is unique in another way.  As a family member, you may not bring a wrongful death claim forward, only the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may file the claim. However, there is nothing preventing a family member from becoming the personal representative.

While a wrongful death lawsuit will not bring back your loved one, it can help the family know it will have some accountability for the wrongful act and finances to carry on in the absence of the decedent.

Montgomery wrongful death attorney Chip Nix understands what you are going through and will be there to have your back during this most devastating time. 

Call his Montgomery office at (334) 279-770 for a free consultation so Mr. Nix can chart out a plan to compensate you for the loss of your loved one. It is best to get in touch with us at your soonest convenience, because the earlier a wrongful death case is filed, the better the chances for financial recovery.   

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